Life cycle assessment of bio-methane and biogas-based electricity production from organic waste for utilization as a vehicle fuel

Abstract

The concerns about climate change, energy security and price fluctuation of fossil fuels are driving the growing interest in the development and utilization of renewable energy as a transportation fuel. In this aspect, the utilization of organic household waste for the production of biogas avoids the environmental impact of landfills. The further upgrading and utilization of biogas as a vehicle fuel avoids the environmental impact of fossil fuels. This paper presents the life cycle assessment of two utilization pathways of biogas produced from co-digestion of organic household waste, grease trap removal sludge and ley crops grown by local farmers. Specifically, this study assessed and compared the environmental impact of the production and utilization of bio-methane and biogas-based electricity as a vehicle fuel for public transport buses in Västerås, Sweden. The system boundary for biogas production covered seven main steps: cultivation, harvesting and transport of ley crops, collection and transport of waste, pre-treatment and co-digestion of the substrate. The system boundary for bio-methane was further extended to account for the upgrading process and tailpipe emissions from combustion of bio-methane in the buses. In the case of biogas-based electricity, the system boundary was further extended to account for the combustion of biogas in the CHP unit and further utilization of electricity in the electric bus. The evaluation of the production routes showed that the methane losses and high energy consumption for both biogas production and upgrading process dominated the environmental impact of bio-methane production. However, the emissions from the CHP unit were solely responsible for the environmental impact of biogas-based electricity production. The functional unit identified for this study is 1 vehicle km travelled (VKT) of the bio-methane fuelled bus and electric bus. The global warming potential of the electric buses was 0.11 kg CO2-eq/VKT compared to 0.26 kg CO2-eq/VKT for the bio-methane buses. The electric buses could also reduce about half of the acidification and eutrophication impacts associated with the bio-methane fuelled buses. The lower fuel efficiency and high tailpipe emissions decreased the environmental advantages of the bio-methane buses. Eventually, this study ensures the biogas utilization which is environmentally sound and compares favourably with the alternative options.

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Acknowledgements

Authors sincerely thank the management and the staff of Växtkraft Biogas Plant at Västerås, Sweden for providing the data needed for carrying out the present research study. The first author would like to acknowledge The Foundation of Gustav Dahl as the present study was supported by the Gustav Dahl Scholarship, Malardalen University, Västerås, Sweden.

Funding

The first author would like to acknowledge The Foundation of Gustav Dahl as the present study was supported by the Gustav Dahl Scholarship, Malardalen University, Västerås, Sweden.

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Correspondence to Anil Kumar Dikshit.

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Shinde, A.M., Dikshit, A.K., Odlare, M. et al. Life cycle assessment of bio-methane and biogas-based electricity production from organic waste for utilization as a vehicle fuel. Clean Techn Environ Policy (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10098-021-02054-7

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Keywords

  • Biogas
  • Bio-methane
  • Biogas-based electricity
  • Electric bus
  • Life cycle assessment